My friend of 15 years, Ann Kelley, has died after a three-and-a-half year battle with metastatic breast cancer. She was 41.
Ann and I felt close to each other from the day we met. We talked about everything, but more often than not we talked about our romantic lives, even after we were both married to other people. No matter how many weeks or months had passed, our conversations picked up right where they left off. We told each other everything.
December 3, 2012 was her funeral, and I saw her everywhere.
In beginning to look through my journal to research this entry, I pulled out one of my books from 1999 and opened it at random, and the first word on the page was “Ann.” We were that close.
I was considering buying Ann’s house on 17th Street here in Ada the night of my first date with my wife Abby. After dinner she and I went to that house, which was empty, and turned on a gas fire. We held hands… “We held hands a lot more than anything else that night,” Abby recalled recently.
Ann loved houses. She loved to buy them and fix them up. In the time I knew her, she lived in seven different houses, two in Ada and five in Shawnee. I loved the house on 17th Street, which is why I considered buying it. She and I, and her friends and mine, had a so many good times and bad times there.
“Ann came into the darkroom today, simply wanting to be held.” ~Journal, September 1999
She divorced her first husband in about 1997, and I remember she kind of disappeared for a while. One night when I hadn’t seen her in a few weeks, I invited myself into her house, where I found her lying on her bed reading Dorothy Parker. She didn’t even look up, and I didn’t say anything. I just put my arms around her and held her for a while. We were that close.
Ann flew with me twice, both times in a Cessna 172, both in June 1997. She had an amazing time. In the remarks section of my logbook it says, “Ann Kelley” one week, and “AK – Towering Q!” the next.
“I’m so ‘I don’t know,’ I don’t know anything any more.” ~Ann, March 1998
Ann loved vinyl phonograph records, and loved to play them.
One day in about 1998 we drove to Moore, Oklahoma, to a used camera store, and bought her a Nikon F2, a 28mm f/2.0, and a 135mm f/2.8. She was so proud of her new old gear. I tried to teach her everything I could about it.
I remember the day she told me she had cancer. I was walking across downtown Ada and called her on my cell phone. She seemed almost apologetic about it.
As I dug deeper and deeper into my journal from that era, I found hundreds of mentions of Ann. I was going to include some of them, but there are so many that they are overwhelming me. Maybe someday.
I did manage to find a few images of her that I’d never scanned – they were from the film days. She looks great in all of them.
I don’t believe in divine intervention or the cosmic lattice of coincidence, but there is a song that came into my awareness just a couple of days after Ann died, Waiting, the strings and vocals mix, by Dash Berlin, that expresses how I am feeling. It wasn’t magic that I found it: I was listening for it. I know it’s overly sentimental, but it still speaks to this time…
“Fading of the day
as night takes over
and I can almost feel
“Your memory remains
I breath it closer
I swear that I still feel you near…”
I want to call her and tell her how I’m feeling about all this. Oddly ironic, isn’t it?
Even today, I still nurture a sense of disbelief that she is really dead. I miss her.